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Eagles Training Camp Practice Notes | July 30, 2023

Quez Watkins high-points the ball.
Quez Watkins high-points the ball.

Sunday was Military Appreciation Day as several hundred men and women from all branches of the Armed Forces lined the fields for practice. As the players ran out of the weight room and onto the field, around 60 military personnel lined up on both sides cheered on the players, who wore special themed jerseys with camo nameplates and numbers. The cheers became so loud when center Jason Kelce exited the weight room that Head Coach Nick Sirianni had to pause while answering a question at his press conference being held at a nearby tent. Wide receiver A.J. Brown posed for photos with service members in between drills. Following practice, the players autographed their jerseys and handed them to the men and women on hand to show their gratitude for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.

Pre-practice injury report: Great news as the second week of Training Camp gets underway. No new names have been added to the list since the start of practices last Wednesday. Defensive end Derek Barnett (knee), cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe), and linebacker Haason Reddick (groin soreness) were all limited on Sunday.

• For the first time in Training Camp, the Eagles had access to all three of their practice fields. One of them had been reserved for the Premier League team Chelsea which utilized the NovaCare Complex as a home base for the past week while participating in the Summer Series. – Chris McPherson

• As the team prepares for the day's action, Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai spends a few minutes with veteran defensive tackle Fletcher Cox during the stretch period. Cox is one of the longest-tenured players on the team and once again will look to provide impactful play against both the run and the pass in 2023, his 12th season in Philadelphia. – Fran Duffy

• During the individual position portion of practice early, I'm watching as the wide receivers enhance their footwork through two specific drills. First, the wide receivers go through the ladder, quickly tapping their feet in and out of each box, before releasing into the route and catching the ball over their shoulder. It's no surprise that DeVonta Smith, who is outstanding at getting his feet in bounds along the sideline, was outstanding at this drill. Undrafted rookie Jadon Haselwood also looked very quick and fluid going through this session. Next, the receivers ran around a series of four cones to work on crisp, sharp cuts before catching a ball and accelerating down the field. – Chris McPherson

• Adding that DeVonta Smith took a rep towards the front of the line and, on his own, went to the back afterwards to have another crack at it. He was the only player to give himself that extra rep. I thought that was a good look into the mindset that Smith takes in practice every day. – Fran Duffy

• For the special teams periods today, the Eagles were focused in on their kickoff coverage team, and after the stretching period the group lined up for their individual drills in the near end zone. First guys in line? Veteran linebacker Shaun Bradley and second-year safety Reed Blankenship, two mainstays on that unit from a year ago.

Bradley has excelled with this group since his arrival in the NFL and figures to do the same here in 2023. When the squad got together for a couple of full-field reps later in practice, I took note of who the first players were to get downfield on kickoff. With the starters, it was second-year edge rusher Kyron Johnson and with the second-team unit it was rookie safety Sydney Brown. I also found it notable that wideout Olamide Zaccheaus was the only offensive player working with the first-team unit on kickoff coverage, further adding to the value he brings to the team. – Fran Duffy

Ty Zentner also showcased his versatility in being able to handle kickoffs as well as punts. At Kansas State last season, Zentner was the only Power 5 player to handle the majority of the team's punts, kickoffs, and scoring kicks. – Chris McPherson

• Watching Nolan Smith in the early stages of practice, you can tell that he takes EVERYTHING very seriously. As the rookie goes through individual drills during the special teams period, every rep happens with violence and full arm extension and suddenness. He doesn't take plays off when he's going through drills. Once he finished his final rep, he volunteered to step in and hold the bag for his teammates as well. – Fran Duffy

The Eagles hosted Military Appreciation Day at Training Camp on Sunday. The players showed their appreciation by autographing the special camo jerseys and giving them away after practice.

• As the offensive skill players got together for a ball security circuit, one drill that the pass catchers took part in had them taking a screen pass on the outside and then run a gauntlet of obstacles. First up, two assistants hit them with bags to teach ball security. Next, a large ball was thrown at them to encourage the use of a stiff arm. That was followed up immediately afterwards with a couple of staffers with long poles and boxing gloves on the end to try and punch the ball out. Turnover ratio is an extremely important metric for Head Coach Nick Sirianni, and with that in mind this is something the team will practice every single day through the season. – Fran Duffy

• Third down was the emphasis for the team today. The Eagles finished second in the league offensively on third down last season with a 45.6 success rate, fourth best in the league and a franchise record. In fact, the top six teams in this category all made the playoffs, including the final four teams. – Chris McPherson

• The wide receiver who seemed to be the most active today in team drills? Fourth-year speedster Quez Watkins. It started in the opening team session, when Watkins caught a deep over route from quarterback Jalen Hurts running from right to left. Hurts placed the intermediate throw beautifully, leading his receiver away from the trailing corner and underneath the safety. In the next 11-on-11 session, Watkins was again the target of a Hurts pass along the left sideline. This time, the quarterback had to deftly sidestep pressure from a blitz and got the ball out on time, floating the pass to Watkins on a corner route for a first down. Quez also caught a couple of shallow crossers to led to good gains on the ground from Hurts. – Fran Duffy

• It's been three practices, but Hurts' placement on short and intermediate throws has been outstanding. There are several times where Hurts puts the ball only where the pass catcher can come away with it. There are a lot of hidden yards when it comes to ball placement and Hurts is maximizing them early in Training Camp. – Chris McPherson

• Sunday's practice marked the first 1-on-1 drills of Training Camp. Today my focus was on the wide receivers and corners going toe-to-toe, which means we got some heavy-hitting matchups in this period. First up, A.J. Brown draws praise from the crowd after a stop route gets him open against Darius Slay for a completion. James Bradberry helps force an incompletion on a Jalen Hurts fade route to DeVonta Smith. Avonte Maddox rakes his hands through the catch point and gets the ball on the ground on a go ball to Watkins downfield. Kelee Ringo gets his hand on the ball to knock away a throw intended for Tyrie Cleveland on a slant route. Cleveland came back later and caught a beautiful throw down the left sideline from Marcus Mariota. Greg Ward shows off his veteran savvy, separating from Zech McPhearson in the slot for a completion, with Britain Covey running a very similar route for another catch later. Josh Jobe forces a physical incompletion against rookie wideout Joseph Ngata. – Fran Duffy

• While Fran soaked in the wide receivers, I watched the running backs and linebackers. Nakobe Dean opened strong with good tight coverage against Boston Scott running and out route, but the veteran back was able to garner enough space to get the grab. Trey Sermon hauled in a touchdown grab when he started on an out route and turned upfield, getting enough separation to haul in the pass. Linebacker Nicholas Morrow came up with an interception as he undercut the back on a pass over the middle. Linebacker Christian Elliss reacted perfectly to an outside cut on a pass to Scott for a pass breakup. – Chris McPherson

• The Eagles' offense worked in a handful of screens on Sunday, and the defense did a pretty good job in sniffing them out. Two plays of note came from linebacker Nakobe Dean and defensive lineman Kentavius Street, the latter of which completely deterred the throw from the quarterback on the play. Jordan Davis later got a tackle for loss on a tight end screen in the backfield as well. – Fran Duffy

• This play certainly wasn't a screen to open the 7-on-7 period. D'Andre Swift flexed from the backfield to the far left and ran a go route. Jalen Hurts nestled the ball in between the linebacker and the deep safety perfectly for a 43-yard gain. On the next play, Hurts connected with A.J. Brown on a short pass underneath, again putting the ball only where the wide receiver could make a play. Fran highlighted Shaun Bradley's special teams prowess earlier, but here he broke up a pass intended for tight end Dan Arnold on a short out route. – Chris McPherson

• Midway through a period that pitted backups against starters on both sides, Head Coach Nick Sirianni threw the team a curve ball by adding in an extra play with incentives. The starting defense went up against the backups on offense, and cornerback James Bradberry ended up picking off a Marcus Mariota pass and taking it the other way. In a live situation, this likely would have been a pick-six, and the defense responded in kind with that side of the field erupting in celebration. – Fran Duffy

• The final team period was a "jamboree," where the offense or the defense wins points based on the result of each third-down situation. Jalen Hurts threw a perfect out route to A.J. Brown, who lined up in the slot, for a 12-yard completion. Greg Ward had a nice catch-and-run, eluding the defense on a shallow cross underneath after motioning to a stack before the snap. It's amazing to see Ward stick in the league. He was a rookie free agent in 2017 after converting from quarterback to wide receiver. In all, the offense won 23-14 and the defense had to run sprints to end practice. – Chris McPherson

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